US criticises WHO for ignoring Taiwan's warnings about COVID-19

AFP
Washington, United States Published: Apr 10, 2020, 07:07 AM(IST)

File photo of Donald Trump Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

President Donald Trump has gone on an offensive with threats to withhold funding for the WHO, which is at the forefront of fighting the pandemic that has infected more than 1.5 million people worldwide since emerging in Wuhan, China late last year.

The United States on Thursday accused the World Health Organisation of putting politics first by ignoring early coronavirus warnings by Taiwan, which voiced outrage over criticism from the UN body's chief. 

Also read: US hardest hit by novel coronavirus

President Donald Trump has gone on an offensive with threats to withhold funding for the WHO, which is at the forefront of fighting the pandemic that has infected more than 1.5 million people worldwide since emerging in Wuhan, China late last year.

Also read: Trump wobbles as New York becomes coronavirus epicentre

Critics say that Trump's sudden threats against the WHO amount to a political ploy to find a foreign scapegoat as he comes under fire for not doing more to prepare for and control COVID-19, which has killed about 15,000 people in the United States.

Trump himself said in January that the United States had the coronavirus "totally under control" and predicted it may go away in April as temperatures rise.

Also read: COVID-19: New York reports new one-day record death toll as governor Cuomo says hospitalizations have fallen

Elaborating on Trump's case against the WHO, the State Department said the WHO was too late in sounding the alarm over COVID-19 and overly deferential to China. It questioned why the Geneva-based body did not pursue a lead from Taiwan.

The United States is "deeply disturbed that Taiwan's information was withheld from the global health community, as reflected in the WHO's January 14, 2020 statement that there was no indication of human-to-human transmission," a State Department spokesperson said.

The WHO's actions have "cost time and lives," the spokesperson said.

Taiwan, which has succeeded in limiting the virus to just five deaths despite the island's proximity and ties with China, warned the WHO on December 31 of human-to-human transmission, Vice President Chen Chien-Jen has said.

Chen, an epidemiologist, told the Financial Times that Taiwanese doctors had learned that colleagues in Wuhan were falling ill but that the WHO did not work to confirm the finding.

China considers Taiwan -- a self-ruling democracy where the mainland's defeated nationalists fled in 1949 -- to be a province awaiting reunification and has sought to exclude it from all international organizations.

"The WHO once again chose politics over public health," she said, criticizing the WHO for denying Taiwan even observer status since 2016.

Read in App